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Dynamo downs D.C. United in first leg of East finals

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The Associated Press
11/11/2012 7:08:19 PM
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HOUSTON -- The Houston Dynamo are 90 minutes away from their fourth MLS Cup final since 2006.

Andre Hainault, Will Bruin and Kofi Sarkodie each scored second-half goals to give the Houston Dynamo a 3-1 win over D.C. United on Sunday in the first leg of the Eastern Conference finals.

The win gives Houston a two-goal aggregate lead heading into next Sunday's decisive match at RFK Stadium in Washington.

"We played a wonderful second half," said Dynamo coach Dominic Kinnear. "That just shows the great character we have to score three in the second half after being down 1-0 early."

The Dynamo extended their home unbeaten streak to 30 games in all competitions, dating to June 18, 2011, when they lost to Columbus. Houston is four wins or ties shy of matching Real Salt Lake's league-record 34-game home unbeaten streak.

Nick DeLeon scored for United in the 27th minute.

"(Our home unbeaten streak) is neat, I will say that," said Kinnear, the only coach the Dynamo have had since moving to Houston before the 2006 season. "I think the record that we've had at home this year is pretty remarkable."

Trailing 1-0 at halftime, the Dynamo tied it in the 51st minute when Hainault one-timed a pass from Boniek Garcia high into the net. It was Hainault's first goal of these playoffs and third of his career.

Houston defender Bobby Boswell made the save of the match in the 66th when he stopped a point-blank shot by Lionard Pajoy on the goal line with Dynamo keeper Tally Hall just out of position.

That set up Bruin's go-ahead goal one-minute later. Sarkodie got his first MLS goal in the 80th minute to seal it for the Dynamo, who are in their fifth conference final in seven seasons.

"The stop by Bobby really changed the game for us," said Bruin, who has scored six goals in seven career matches against United. "That was good awareness, and he is a smart player. It is the little things like that that really have made a difference for our team all year."

DeLeon scored when he put a rebound past Hall. After Lionard Pajoy bounced a shot off the far post, the rebound came back to DeLeon, who fired a shot into the net off Hainault.

Backup goalkeeper Joe Willis made four saves for D.C., while Hall had two for Houston.

"At the half, the mood in the locker was normal, I will say," said Kinnear. "There was no panic, our heads were not down. The guys were a little disappointed to be down 1-0, but by no means were we frustrated."

D.C. captain Chris Pontius left the game in the 12th minute with a left groin strain. Lewis Neal replaced the United striker and recorded the first shot of the game in the 17th.

In the 23rd, Houston fanned on its first legitimate chance of the match. Boniek Garcia sent a free kick into the middle of the box to a wide-open Hainault, but his header was wide.

Houston took the regular season series 2-1, but United won the only game at RFK Stadium back in May. Houston outscored D.C. 7-3 in three games during the regular season and is 9-2-4 all-time against United.

The Dynamo played without several starters due to injury. Jermaine Taylor and Calen Carr sat with left knee and left hamstring injuries, respectively, and Ricardo Clark did not play because of an adductor injury.

"The weeklong break will be good for us," said Kinnear. "It will be a time to heal and get ready for what will no doubt be a hard-fought finish to this series."

Tough challenge (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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